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I have of course voted. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
I have of course voted.

And I have of course voted No to AV.


This is because there was no option to vote ‘Not Only No But Never and Bugger Off You Stupid Nits’.


Constitutions want to be like medications: they should be made tamper- and child-resistant.


I am still Less Than Amused that we are so much as having a referendum on an issue no one was promised a referendum on, but we are not allowed one by our purported masters and betters on Europe, despite promises across the board.


Even so, it’s better to have this referendum than to have yet another puerile, thoughtless change to the constitution fiddled in a backroom deal (you do recall the Blair years, I take it?).


Let’s not lie to ourselves. The primary motive for adopting AV is, in the breasts of most of those who pushed it, to create a permanent yoghurt-knitter’s veto and to prevent, as much as possible, there ever again being a Tory government (it’s not as if we’ve one now. Sodding, sodden Wets). Evidently, naked gerrymandering to the advantage of Labour isn’t enough for some people, nor yet jiggery-pokery in the interest of the Lib Dems (who, alas, are neither). If that’s your ideal, go to. It isn’t mine.


What I loathe most about AV is that it’s a stitch-up. Anyone who’s read The Confidence of the House: May 1940 – and if you’ve not, why haven’t you? – knows that I ended by sympathising more than I should ever have thought I should do with the Chief Whip:


It was all very well to complain that party discipline had throttled democracy, that hon. Members were made into mere puppets answerable only to the patronage office and neither to their constituencies or their consciences – such of ’em as had consciences, which, after long experience of men and affairs, the Chief Whip begged leave in most instances to doubt – and it was true enough that through years of crises internal and external, discipline had perforce been rather tightened than otherwise, and the payroll vote spread very widely indeed. But what would they have, the croakers? Theirs was, after all, a parliamentary democracy. At one time, and a time of a restricted franchise at that, a First Lord of the Treasury had been the King’s premier only so far and so long as he kept the King’s confidence. Modern Prime Ministers depended upon the confidence of the House, which might be, in the high theory of the thing, the Crown in Parliament, but was in fact, in a parliamentary democracy, simply the confidence of the people. The people had passed their judgement in the last General Election, and no by-election since had overturned it by a whit (despite that silly ass Randolph’s best efforts: one felt actual sympathy for Winston, lumbered with a son of that kidney). He was the Chief Whip, damn it all, after all: it was not his job only, it was his positive duty, to keep the field from overrunning the hounds and the Master, or what the devil were elections and the people’s votes for, he’d like to know.


The fact remains that what’s wanted in this country is more democracy and less party discipline. And the way to obtain that is by party primary elections. AV, by contrast, is the very Way of the Stitch-Up, in which cosy deals and corrupt bargains are institutionalised in public and parliamentary life.


I see the Houses of Parliament – and particularly the House of Commons – alone among the senates and chambers of the world a living and ruling entity; the swift vehicle of public opinion; the arena – perhaps fortunately the padded arena – of the inevitable class and social conflict; the College from which the Ministers of State are chosen, and hitherto the solid and unfailing foundation of the executive power.


I regard these parliamentary institutions as precious to us almost beyond compare. They seem to give by far the closest association yet achieved between the life of the people and the action of the state. They possess apparently an unlimited capacity of adaptiveness, and they stand an effective buffer against every form of revolutionary and reactionary violence.


It should be the duty of faithful subjects to preserve these institutions in their healthy vigour, to guard them against the encroachment of external forces, and to revivify them from one generation to another from the springs of national talent, interest, and esteem.


That, of course, is what Winston said 81 years ago. AV is a move away from that ideal. Let me be clear. I have my faults, and many of you will disregard what I have to say because you really don’t particularly care for the messenger, whatever his message. But I entreat you to consider a point: I am quite likely, just now, one of a score or so of people who know more about the House of Commons as it was between the General Elections of 1935 and 1945 than anyone else.


It is from that perspective that I say to you, it were much better not to vote for AV. Everything that was wrong with parliamentary government from 1929 onwards: the ostensibly ‘national’ governments that were nothing of the sort, the slavishness and the patronage vote, the nakedly corrupt dealings, the cocooning of successive Prime Ministers from military and political reality: all this, even back perhaps as far as the Coupon Election of 1918, should be institutionalised by the adoption of AV. The death of the Liberal Party – which, if it yet existed as it was in the days of Rosebery and even of Campbell-Bannerman, should have me as a member – and the quite wicked tricks that frustrated the Labour Party are examples of what happens when the backroom boys are in surreptitious charge.


What saved the country was that FPTP acts as a corrective to these abuses, rather than facilitating them. Men of the stamp of Duff Cooper and Amery and Churchill could have been kept out of the House as well as out of power had not the political and constituency imperatives of FPTP forced an unwilling party to stick by them: for all parties in a FPTP system are coalitions, internally, and FPTP requires them to account for and be accountable to all shades of opinion within the party. Great men, indispensable men, of the kidney of Major Attlee and Major Milner, Colonel Wedgwood and Captain Bellenger, emerge and are returned to the House in a FPTP system; they should never have made it under AV, because they should not have been able to withstand both internal factionalism in their party and the institutionalising of the corrupt bargains that created ‘National Labour’ and ‘National Liberals’ under what was in all but name a Chamberlainite Conservative whip. Nor in an AV system should a Commander Bower or an Admiral Sir Roger Keyes have been in the House in May of 1940.


It is very easy indeed to imagine what AV should have done since, say, the General Election of 1950. Mr Attlee might very easily have been overthrown by his party, as Asquith had been by his, and the Bevin-and-Gaitskell wing purged or extruded. Or imagine, if you like, a world during the lifetimes of many of us, with Ted Heath as a sort of permanent ‘National’ Government PM, hanging limpet-like to office as drift and irresolution swept the country finally and wholly away. Or imagine that utter fucking idiot Neil Kinnock in Downing Street, with Paddy Ashdown as his Nick Clegg.


Think seriously about your vote, please. And when you have done, please join me in rejecting this balls.


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11 comments or Leave a comment
nursedarry From: nursedarry Date: May 5th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did as ordered, sir.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 5th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Good Lord, it was hardly an order.

Well done you for voting, any way.
From: 17catherines Date: May 6th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Three cheers for the loyal opposition!

Thank you for presenting an argument which has integrity (not that I would expect less from you). I think this is the first argument I've seen against AV that doesn't play the 'Australia has it and they all hate it and want to get rid of it' card - which is as infuriating as it is dishonest.

Quite apart from the personal irritation factor, it's useful to read an actual rational argument in favour of the system - I don't think I've ever seen one before, and the USA's electoral system (being the main FPTP one I am aware of) is not exactly a shining example of how things should work.

Having said that, I still prefer the system we have in Australia. But that's perfectly fine, because you don't need my vote anyway. And I can certainly imagine that what works well for us might work less well for others.

(though having said that, I think even you would enjoy the cathartic pleasure of putting the most annoying party you can find dead last on your ballot paper)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Well (yes, I am up for the returns)...

... currently, I'm in coalition with the Most Annoying Party - for how much longer I can't say, as it implodes - to keep the Most Loathsome and Contemptible Party from completing the ruin of the country.

More seriously, thank you.
From: 17catherines Date: May 6th, 2011 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Many happy returns?!

Hmm, I hadn't thought of it that way, but I imagine a FPTP system would tend to encourage coalitions, would it not? I mean, if I were a small party, I'd be inclined to try to join forces with the other small parties of similar leanings in order to make myself a bit more electable (rather than splitting the vote between us).

Of course, I'm not sure what effect such a pressure towards coalitions would have on the policies of the parties. Fewer fruit loops at either end of the political spectrum, perhaps? Or a disheartening tendency for smaller right-wing-but-sane parties to team up with the raving libertarian gun-nuts? (Come to think of it, this might explain the Republican Party)

May your country remain unruined.


wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Precisely not, actually.

Under FPTP, each major party IS a coalition. It is disheartening that so much bilge is talked - because first taught to those who accept it in good faith - abt the US parties; I'll confine myself to using the Democrats as an example here, lest I encounter the unreasoning prejudice against the GOP. Most of my American friends are Democrats by name. My partner in Bapton Books is a former Democrat executive committeeman for his former constituency, and, as a Southern Democrat, well to the right of, say, the Republican US Senator for Massachusetts. My Jewish friends in New York are either neoconservatives, or leftish on social issues right up to the point at which their observant Judaism cuts across these issues, at which point they execute a sharp rightward turn. Others are Henry Jackson Society types who detest Obamism, but wouldn't say so here, say, because it's not worth dealing with the Ron-Paul-style fanaticism of his acolytes.

Similarly, look at the Lib Dems. Yoghurt-knitters and Orange Bookers in the same party? Sans FPTP, they'd be two minor parties standing separately. Even the SNP is an uneasy coalition of anti-Labourites, anti-Tories, anti-Liberals, devolutionists, and outright anti-Unionists: and watch it contort when that damned referendum can't be put off any longer. And any Conservative Party that includes me and Lord Tebbit and David Davis on the one hand and the Cameroons and Wets and Ken Clarke on the other is a Very Big Tent indeed.

Edited at 2011-05-06 02:38 pm (UTC)
From: 17catherines Date: May 7th, 2011 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Precisely not, actually.

That was more or less what I meant, but obviously I expressed it badly. Both the large US parties seem to have very broad bases - they have to, because voting for a smaller party gets you nowhere. Australian politics tends to be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure of teeny tiny parties once you get past the three or four (depending how you count them) larger ones, because while it's always been the Lib/Nat Coalition (moderate right) or the Labor party (centrist left, moving further right with every day they let the Lib/Nats dictate their agenda) in charge, proportional representation in the Senate means that Greens, Democrats, Family First, Democratic Labor Party, and a variety of independents have all been represented at time and have been able to colour or influence the policies presented by the larger parties.

Of course, when you come down to it, our system does mean that sooner or later your vote will probably flow to one of the two larger parties, and it's possible that a system which encourages those who can't agree to split off rather than reach a compromise means that we actually wind up with less variety in what gets elected. On the other hand, it does give the electorate a chance to show the politicians what policies we really care about, and sometimes, they even pay attention to where the first votes are going...

(also, my anti-GOP prejudice is quite reasoned and not-infrequently embraces the Democrats, too - I think that US politics in general lets itself get held hostage far too frequently by the most fundamentalist forms of Christianity, to the detriment of women and the environment. And I think it's hysterical that people keep trying to paint Obama as a communist when he's still somewhere to the right of our more right wing party. You don't have to agree with my reasons, but I certainly have them!)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 8th, 2011 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Fissiparous things, parties.

Unless restrained by FPTP. Otherwise, you get something like the Knesset. Or the Frogs' Third Republic.

By which standard the English-speaking countries (and I include here America even if it doesn't quite speak actual English as such) aren't doing too badly, are we.
From: 17catherines Date: May 8th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fissiparous things, parties.

I'm rather fond of the Frogs' Third Republic, myself. I vote for them whenever they run a candidate in my electorate.

What I find interesting is that there are clearly ways in each different system for both adherents of both mainstream and abstruse political ideologies to express themselves.
fpb From: fpb Date: May 8th, 2011 09:00 am (UTC) (Link)


I think you'll like this: http://www.fictionalley.org/authors/little_bird/ITLOTS03.html
You should start from the first chapter, but I have linked you to the one that features some of your favourite people.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 8th, 2011 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'll look it out forthwith.
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